Recent events in the Middle East have once again caused an unnecessary rift in the US government. The attack on two oil tankers as well as attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad and on US forces by Iranian proxy militias has raised tensions in the region. Rather than wait for evidence to be presented, many Democratic party leaders and members insist that the attacks are insufficient to be of concern or in fact were made up by the Trump administration as an excuse to go to war with Iran.
Some have even called this a repeat of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The Gulf of Tonkin incident may or may not have happened but because of the information given, Congress passed a resolution giving President Lyndon Johnson the authority to conduct military operations in Vietnam without a declaration of war. The ghost of Vietnam has once again appeared to disrupt logical conversation.
There was a recent New York Times editorial saying that the increase in sanctions on Iran by Trump is also a cause for Iran to attack US and western interests. The Times editorial also claimed that the tanker attacks, as well as the others, should have been foreseen and were preventable. If only the US had not pulled out of the Iran deal, if only the US had not been adamant about calling out the criminal and terrorist acts of the Iran regime, if only.
Regardless of political ideology, it must be accepted that the regime in Tehran is a terrorist gang. Internally they have reduced the standard of living for most citizens. That is for those citizens who are considered Iranian. Minorities such as the Kurds or religious groups such as the Baha’i are persecuted. Woman’s rights are nonexistent, and anyone convicted of homosexuality is hung on a good day or thrown off the top of a building. The regime has used the increase in revenue that resulted from the Iran deal, not to help its citizens, but to increase funding of its proxy militias and the IRGC to train and control the militias.
Knowing this, the opposition Democrats in the US Government continue to question the actions of the administration and look to somehow make the Iranian government the victim by using false narratives and misstating facts they feel they are making political headway for the next election cycle. The problem with this type of politics is that it is making the situation worse.
While the current sanctions may have worked and are having an effect, the Iranian regime looks at what is happening in Washington and European capitals and feels that all they need do is ride it out for a couple more years and the west will capitulate. In fact, the Democrats now running for president have said they will reinstate the Iran deal. So many lessons of history have been ignored in all of this and it is evident that, should we continue down this path, we will be facing war or a worse disaster.
The biggest problem the US faces is one of credibility. The only way the threat of military or economic actions can work is if those threatened believe the threatened action will be carried out. Currently, Iran will base its response on what it sees in US media and by the actions of its lawmakers. When Hitler saw a moribund League of Nations fail to react to Japanese and Italian aggression, his conclusion was that he could do anything he wanted without consequences. When the US pulled out of the Iran deal, the other nations did not. This gives hope to Iran that it is only a matter of time before Trump is out and the deal is reinstated.
The claims that the attacks on the tankers are just another Gulf of Tonkin also give hope that Congress will stop the president from carrying out his threat. The calls from the left that the president is just trying to make a case for going to war ignores past actions of the regime. These include supporting Shia militias in Iraq and Syria, attacking coalition forces through proxy, and evading the responsibilities of the Iran deal, which it has been doing almost from the start. Iran has already said it is going to breach the level of uranium enrichment soon, but the apologists claim it is still just low grade and not weapons grade. Regardless they can continue to enrich the low grade to weapons grade or simply use the raw uranium on hand to go to weapons grade.
The argument that we “forced” Iran into recent attacks is another attempt at taking charge of the narrative with false information. Revisionist historians also claimed the US “forced” the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor by placing sanctions and imposing an oil embargo. This again ignores the actions of the Japanese actions in China with the oil embargo coming after the rape of Nanking became public. Going back further it was said the southern states in the US were “forced” to secede because of the election of Abraham Lincoln. The last was based on their fear he would abolish slavery, which he campaigned not to do.
The recent statement by President Trump, that if any American is killed by Iranian action it would trigger dire consequences, is also similar to President Kennedy’s declaration during the Cuban missile crisis that any missile fired from Cuba at any target in the western hemisphere would be considered a direct attack by the USSR on the US. This statement went a long way in causing the USSR to back down. It must be remembered that with the support of Congress and the international community there was every reason to believe Kennedy would in fact carry out his threats.
If Iran continues to carry out its regional aggression, then either the world must respond or no further treats will be believed and this will lead to more aggression that will get to the point that the world must act. At that point, the fight will be disastrous to all sides.
Paul Davis is a Senior Fellow at Soran University and a retired US Army military intelligence officer. He has been a consultant to the American intelligence community specializing in the Middle East with a concentration on Kurdish affairs. Currently, he is the president of the consulting firm JANUS Think in Washington DC.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by John J. Catherine